Living

Sunapee woman, Amherst doctor to share recipes to treat Lyme disease

Thursday, April 12, 2012

By MICHAEL CLEVELAND

Staff Writer

Suffering from Lyme disease was bad enough, but trying to follow a diet that, in the first week, eliminated just about everything except vegetables, made fighting the disease more difficult.

That was the problem Laura Piazza faced several years ago. She knew, thanks to a doctor in Vermont, what she had to do – spend a week on a detox, anti-inflamatory diet – but was having trouble figuring out how to make the diet palatable.

Enter her mom.

“Lucky for me, she has been developing recipes her entire career,” said Piazza, who lives in Sunapee, during a recent telephone interview.

Her mom is a home economics consultant often called upon to develop recipes for major clients, so when Piazza asked her for help, she jumped right in. Piazza sent her a list of acceptable foods, and her mom turned them into recipes.

“Of course, they were great,” Piazza said. “She makes the food taste good.”

Her mom, Gail Piazza, kept sending recipes. Laura kept eating and moved on to the next stage of the diet – again with help from her mom. This new way of eating has been an essential part of her continued treatment.

Now, she and her mom, with the help of Dr. Julia Greenspan, a naturopathic doctor whose office is in Amherst, want to help others.

Laura and Gail have written a book called “Recipes for Repair: A Lyme Disease Cookbook” that contains 151 recipes developed, they say, for taste and ease, and that follow the anti-inflamation diet Laura got from her doctor when she finally was diagnosed.

Laura Piazza and Greenspan will discuss the book and ways to prevent and battle Lyme disease starting at 1 p.m. Saturday, April 14, at the Toadstool Bookshop in Lorden Plaza, Milford.

“This is probably going to be the worst tick season ever,” Greenspan said in a telephone interview with The Cabinet.

That is thanks in part to weather, thanks in part to mice, she said, and it all began about two years ago with a sudden overabundance of acorns. The acorns fed the mice and kept them from dying off as they normally would in winter; the mice hosted the ticks; and the ticks have come to adulthood this year. Mice are a bigger problem when it comes to ticks than deer are, Greenspan said.

“I started seeing tick bites about four weeks ago, which is the earliest I’ve seen,” she said, referring to late February. “Some patients told me they were infected in December, and some had dogs carrying ticks all winter.”

She said the chances of being bitten by a tick are increasing now, “so what I want people to understand is how to handle that and reduce the effects of being bitten.”

It is also important to keep the tick and bring it to a doctor, she said.

“I want to test the tick as soon as possible, if you’re lucky enough to find it, and begin treatment as soon as possible,” Greenspan said.

Early treatment can be important in defeating Lyme disease, but so can medication and, as was the case with Laura Piazza, diet. That is what she will discuss at the Toadstool, along with her experience with trying to get her disease diagnosed.

She was bitten when she was living in Durham, but for years, she was misdiagnosed, she said. She had a rash and other symptoms indicative of Lyme disease, but initial tests came back negative. She eventually was treated for it, and the acute symptoms disappeared.

“Not knowing anything else about it, I just assumed I was better,” Piazza said.

She wasn’t. For 10 years, she kept getting sick with different ailments not connected to one another. She thought she just had bad luck with her health. But in 2009, she learned from her sister, an emergency room doctor, about chronic Lyme disease.

“Knowing that I had had a tick bite, she put two and two together and she said she thought I still had Lyme and that the symptoms I had were a result of not being properly treated,” Piazza said.

So she found a Lyme specialist in Vermont, and it was that doctor who, once her tests came back positive, turned her on to the anti-inflamation diet. She also joined a support group in Manchester and discovered a book called “The Lyme Disease Solution” by Kenneth B. Singleton, a doctor who had been misdiagnosed himself for years.

“He’s better now,” Piazza said. “That’s what I liked about his book: It was coming from a place of recovery.”

And that’s where she found the diet.

“But it’s an elimination diet,” she said. “You start out very, very strict, with the first week eating pretty much all vegetables. It cuts out all grains, all dairy products. It’s really meant to jump-start the detox process and takes away anything that is known to clause inflammation.”

The second phase is another three weeks, but without much in the way of food added to it.

“With me being used to eating a very rich diet, with lots of cheese and milk and bread, I was thinking, ‘Oh, my gosh, how am I ever going to do this diet?’ It seemed impossible.”

But it wasn’t, thanks to her mom.

Now, through their book, they want to make it easier for other victims of Lyme disease.

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